The Shaw Brothers Studio
邵氏片場), owned by Shaw Brothers (HK) Ltd. , is the foremost and the largest movie production company of Hong Kong movies
From their distribution base in Singapore where they founded parent company Shaw Organization in 1924, and as a strategic development of their movie distribution business in Southeast Asia, Sir Run Run Shaw (邵逸夫) and his third brother Runme Shaw (邵仁枚) founded South Sea Film (南洋影片) in 1930. It was later renamed Shaw Brothers Studio. The studio released Hong Kong's first movie with sound《白金龍》(which translates as "platinum dragon", or one of the slang terms for a pistol) in 1934.
The Shaw Brothers studio is noted for directors King Hu
, Lau Kar-leung
and Chang Cheh
. King Hu was an early director who is best remembered for his film Come Drink with Me
, a martial arts film which differed from those of Chang Cheh in that it featured a capable female protagonist and revolved around romance in the martial arts world, rather than fast paced action and the tales of brotherhood which Chang Cheh would later popularize. Chang Cheh, who was more fond of the latter components, would go on to be Shaw Studios' best known director, with such films as Five Deadly Venoms
, Brave Archer
(based on the works of Jin Yong
), The One Armed Swordsman
, and other classics of Wuxia
film. Almost equally as famous was fight choreographer
turned director Lau Kar-leung, who would produce such highly regarded kung fu films as The 36th Chamber of Shaolin
and Eight-Diagram Pole Fighter
Shaw Brothers was a studio which was modeled after the classic Hollywood system with hundreds of actors signed to exclusive contracts. While other studios rotated a good number of cast members, the Shaw Brothers assigned certain groups of actors to work exclusively with certain directors. The group from the 1978 release Five Deadly Venoms
—who would become known by that namesake—were among the most memorable. These five were Lo Mang
, Lu Feng
, Sun Chien
, Chiang Sheng
and Kuo Chui
, who had been stars in the Shaw studio for years, but did not become memorable faces until the Five Deadly Venoms
. The "sixth Venom", Wei Pai
, who played the Snake in Five Deadly Venoms
was also part of the Venom Mob
which numbered over 15 actors which appeared in almost all of the Venom movies.
In the first half of the 1970's two other stars were particularly well known and favoured by Chang Cheh in his movies: Ti Lung and David Chiang. Ti Lung is considered one of the most, if not the most handsome martial arts actor to grace Shaw Studios, but is also accredited as a capable actor who reinforced his muscular glamour with strong characterisation over his many films. Chiang on the other hand was slight and wiry and often played sarcastic anti-hero to Lung's standard archetype. In the middle of that decade the duo were overshadowed by the rise of Alexander Fu Sheng who had played supporting roles opposite them on many occasions. Fu was eventually killed in 1983 in a car accident, ending a brief but spectacular career.
Members of the Seven Little Fortunes, including Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung, played extras and bit parts in several Shaw Brothers films in the 1970s, although they were obviously unknowns at the time.
Shaw Studios was not well known for female actors however, largely due to Chang Cheh's preference for brotherhood tales, and producer Mona Fong's alleged hatred for beautiful actresses. Nonetheless, actresses like Betty Loh Ti, Cheng Pei Pei, Lily Li Li Li and Tien Niu appeared in Shaw films. Cheng Pei Pei in particular is relatively well known for her starring role in King Hu's Come Drink With Me, and more recently in Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as Jade Fox.
Celestial Pictures acquisition and distribution
Many of their classic films have become subject to bootlegging over the years due to popularity of particularly the kung fu/martial arts titles, Celestial Pictures
acquired rights to the studio's legacy, and is releasing on DVD 760 out of the nearly 1,000 films, with restored digitized picture and sound quality.
Many landmarks in Hong Kong and Singapore are named especially after Sir Run Run Shaw for his generous contributions to charity and medicare. The Shaw Organisation remains a major distribution network in Singapore today.
- Glaessner, Verina. Kung Fu: Cinema of Vengeance. London: Lorimer; New York: Bounty Books, 1974. ISBN 0856470457, ISBN 0517518317.
- Wong, Ain-ling. The Shaw Screen: A Preliminary Study. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Film Archive, 2003. ISBN 9628050214.
- Zhong, Baoxian. "Hollywood of the East" in the Making: The Cathay Organization Vs. the Shaw Organization in Post-War Hong Kong. [Hong Kong]: Centre for China Urban and Regional Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University, 2004. ISBN 9628804448.
- Zhong, Baoxian. Moguls of the Chinese Cinema: The Story of the Shaw Brothers in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore, 1924–2002. Working paper series (David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies); no. 44. Hong Kong: David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University, 2005.